Federico Rojas de Galarreta, 39, professor of political science at the Institute of International Affairs at the University of Chile, talks about social inequalities in Latin America and the difficulty of talking about the whole continent as one.
What are the main social problems in Latin America?
“It’s a huge question. I think we have a mixture of unequal democracies, unequal societies and the erosion of sovereignty in the context of globalization, which is not just a local problem. But in Latin America, in particular, with not very capable states, it’s a growing problem. One of the democratic demands is that we are all equal, at least formally; when one merges into unequal societies where people do not have the same economic resources or the same influence, the democratic promise is taken away. So you have social and economic inequality, plus the broken promise of political equality.
I think dissatisfaction with democracy is a latent problem because if this trend continues over time, dissatisfaction with democracy, growing inequality, democratic legitimacy will decrease, and it is a problem of the political system.
On top of that, you have global issues that go beyond nation states. For example, you have the pandemic, migration issues, growing economic flows, and organized crime.
Another way to answer the same question is that one of Latin America’s global problems is that it is out of date. Maybe that’s a problem, maybe that’s a blessing right now, because if you look at it, demographically it’s not a big area compared to the Asia or Europe.
Although not a relevant region in the world, today it is a problem as Latin America struggles to assert its position in multilateral forums or meetings. On the other hand, it can also be a boon for security issues. Latin America does not face wars or military contracts in a world that is not like a highway, in a world where this possibility is like America; this seems like a distant problem as it happens elsewhere.
If one of the issues in Latin America is no longer relevant, and it becomes a blessing, how can we connect the growth of youth trends to both being a blessing abroad?
“Latin America is irrelevant when it comes to material power or graphic security economics, but has human resources that can overcome this conditioning. I think the youth, feminist and environmental movements have an unusual influence around the world.
I think feminism and environmental causes are important to Latin American youth right now, so there might be a chance to influence other local cultures. We tend to think of Latin America as a unit, but it has great diversity. I don’t know if these changes will take two, five or 20 years, but obviously they are underway. They have different political expressions, and politics is generally slower than society.
What is your interpretation of the need to give visibility to these movements and which movements should receive more visibility depending on the country?
“I think in countries with a higher percentage of urban population, feminist and LGBTQ+ movements are more visible, and in countries with other types of citizens, environmental issues are more of a concern. It’s a big clash between small towns and big cities in the world population.
Latin America has more than 30 countries, so how can we talk about the continent as a whole?
“They have similarities. They have the same colonial heritage, they share these unequal democratic issues, the same notion of sovereignty and share the problems, but they also don’t seem to share the same interest in terms of cooperation. I’ll give you an example: we have CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), which is an intergovernmental forum for coordinating positions on international issues. If we look at Latin America and the Caribbean, we see that in terms of climate change they have the same interests, but the biggest differences are between the more industrialized countries, such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. , and the least industrialized. They disagree and agree on a common position on carbon emissions.
They have a cultural history, so we can think of Latin America as a region with tension between countries. It is curious because even if the differences seem greater than the similarities, there is an attempt to get along and to unite Latin America politically.